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Do ADHD Students Struggle with Maths?

Navigating the academic journey can be particularly challenging for students with ADHD. With approximately 3.62% of boys and 0.85% of girls in the UK affected by ADHD (ADHD UK), it's critical to understand the impact of this neurodevelopmental condition on their studies and academic activities.
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Do ADHD Students Struggle with Maths?


Mathematics plays a crucial role in education, and for students with ADHD, it can present unique challenges. In this blog post, we’ll explore the impact of ADHD on mathematical skills and uncover the symptoms that can affect maths learning. We’ll also debunk common myths surrounding ADHD and maths difficulties, and provide strategies for supporting ADHD students in their maths journey.

Naturally, some students find maths that bit more difficult than others – in just the same way that some students excel in subjects like art or music, but find history or science more of a challenge.

With that said, Very Well Mind reports that “students with ADHD tend to have higher rates of math learning disabilities as compared to the general student population.” Research such as that performed by Hart, Petrill et. al has led many scientists to conclude that there is a discernible correlation between ADHD and maths difficulties.

If you, your child, or someone you know seems to experience repeated difficulties with maths – particularly if those difficulties stem from persistently missing small details, or confusing functions (such as the nature of the question, or mixing up symbols) – then it’s possible that ADHD could be playing a role.

Contact us now for a free student ADHD assessment.


The Connection between ADHD and Maths Performance

Students with ADHD often face specific challenges that can impact their mathematical abilities. To better comprehend this connection, let’s delve into some of the common symptoms of ADHD and their influence on maths learning.

  • Inattention: Difficulty sustaining focus, becoming easily distracted, and struggling to concentrate on maths problems can hinder a student’s understanding and completion of mathematical tasks.
  • Impulsivity: Impulsive behaviours can disrupt the learning process, leading to rushed or careless mistakes in mathematical calculations and problem-solving.
  • Hyperactivity: Restlessness and excessive movement can make it challenging for students with ADHD to sit still and engage with tasks, affecting their ability to absorb information and participate in classroom discussions.
  • Working Memory: Students with ADHD may struggle with working memory, making it difficult to retain and manipulate information during maths tasks, such as remembering formulas or following multi-step problem-solving procedures.
  • Executive Functioning: Experiencing difficulty with some executive functions, including planning, organising, and time management, can impact a student’s ability to effectively approach assignments.

Common Challenges Faced by ADHD Students

Students with ADHD encounter various challenges when it comes to mathematics, and these difficulties can manifest in specific maths tasks that require focus, organisation, and attention to detail.

Let’s explore some of the common maths tasks that ADHD students often find particularly challenging:

  1. Time Management: ADHD students may struggle with managing their time effectively during maths assignments and tests. They may have difficulty estimating how long tasks will take, leading to rushed work or incomplete answers.
  2. Problem Solving: Maths problems that involve critical thinking, logical reasoning, and multiple steps can be overwhelming for students with ADHD. They may have trouble breaking down complex problems or identifying relevant information.
  3. Maths Formula Recall: Memorising and recalling mathematical formulas can be challenging for ADHD students.
  4. Attention to Detail: ADHD students may have a hard time maintaining attention to detail, leading to errors in calculations or misinterpreting instructions. They may overlook important steps or make careless mistakes.
  5. Organisation and Note-Taking: Organising maths materials, keeping track of assignments, and taking detailed notes can pose difficulties for ADHD students. This can impact their ability to review and study effectively for exams.
  6. Transferring Skills: Applying learned mathematical concepts to real-life situations or different contexts can be a struggle for ADHD students. They may have difficulty recognising how to use their maths skills in practical scenarios.

How ADHD Symptoms Interfere with Mathematical Skills

Research has provided insights into the relationship between ADHD and dyscalculia, a maths learning disorder; for instance, it’s thought that 60% of people with ADHD also experience a learning disorder.

Furthermore, light has been shed into how the condition can hinder the development of mathematical skills for students with ADHD. Studies have shown that difficulties related to sustained attention, working memory, and executive functions significantly impact the acquisition and application of mathematical concepts.

Inattentiveness can impair the ability to concentrate on maths tasks, while impulsivity often leads to careless errors. Hyperactivity can further disrupt engagement and focus.

Additional challenges in organising information and managing time can compound the difficulties faced by individuals. Understanding these underlying mechanisms and seeking a student ADHD assessment are crucial steps in implementing effective interventions and support strategies.

Myths About ADHD and Maths

When it comes to ADHD and maths, there are several common misconceptions that can perpetuate misunderstanding and hinder effective support for students. Let’s debunk some of these myths:

  • Myth: ADHD students are not capable of excelling in maths. This couldn’t be further from the truth. With the right diagnosis, strategies and support, students with ADHD can excel in mathematics just like their peers.
  • Myth: ADHD is just an excuse for poor maths performance. ADHD is a legitimate neurodevelopmental condition that affects various aspects of a person’s life, including their ability to learn and perform in mathematics. It is not simply an excuse.
  • Myth: Medication is the only solution for ADHD-related maths difficulties. While medication can be helpful for some individuals, it is not the sole solution. A comprehensive approach that includes tailored strategies, accommodations, and support systems is crucial for addressing maths challenges in ADHD students.
  • Myth: ADHD students are always disruptive in maths classrooms. While ADHD students may exhibit behaviours related to their condition, such as impulsivity or restlessness, it is important to recognise that each student is unique. Many ADHD students can engage productively and positively in the maths classroom with the right guidance and support.
  • Myth: ADHD students simply need to try harder to succeed in maths. ADHD is not a matter of effort or willpower. It is a neurobiological condition that requires understanding, patience, and appropriate interventions to help students overcome the specific challenges they face.

By dispelling these myths, we create a more informed and supportive environment for ADHD students in their maths education. In the next section, we will explore practical strategies and techniques that can make a positive difference in their mathematical journey.


Strategies to Support ADHD Students With Maths

In order to help ADHD children students thrive, it’s important to implement effective strategies and support systems. This section explores various approaches that can make a positive impact in their maths learning experience.

Creating an ADHD-Friendly Maths Environment

Establishing an ADHD-friendly maths environment involves minimising distractions, providing visual aids, and structuring lessons with clear instructions and routines.

Breaking down tasks into smaller, manageable steps and incorporating movement breaks can help keep ADHD students engaged and focused.

Teaching Techniques and Approaches for ADHD Students

Employing multisensory teaching techniques, such as using music, movement or interactive technology, can enhance understanding and retention of mathematical concepts for ADHD students. Incorporating hands-on activities, real-life examples, and mnemonic devices can also be effective in facilitating learning.

Providing Accommodations and Supportive Resources

ADHD students benefit from accommodations that address their specific needs.

These may include extended time for tests and assignments, providing organisational tools, or offering preferential seating.

At The ADHD Centre, we offer a range of supportive resources and strategies tailored to the unique requirements of ADHD students in maths education. Our team provides individualised guidance and support throughout the learning journey.


Why Address ADHD in Maths Education?

Addressing ADHD in maths education is crucial for the overall development and success of students with ADHD. Here are some key reasons why it’s important to provide targeted support:

Development of Essential Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Skills

Maths education plays a fundamental role in nurturing problem-solving and critical thinking. By addressing ADHD in maths, we help ADHD students build these crucial skills, enabling them to analyse and solve complex mathematical problems with confidence.

Improved Focus and Attention

ADHD can pose challenges in maintaining focus and attention, which are essential for understanding and completing mathematical tasks. By addressing ADHD in maths education, we implement strategies that enhance focus and attention, allowing students to fully engage and maximise their learning potential.

Enhanced Ability to Manage Distractions and Stay Organised

By addressing ADHD in maths education, we can provide techniques and accommodations that help students effectively manage distractions, stay organised, and maintain a structured approach that they can use both in and out of school.

Improved Performance and Engagement

When ADHD is addressed in maths education, students experience improved performance and increased engagement. As their performance improves, they become more motivated to actively participate in maths activities and pursue further learning. This leads to a positive cycle of success, fostering a sense of accomplishment and a greater willingness to tackle challenging maths tasks with confidence.

Enhanced Self-Confidence and Motivation

Addressing ADHD in maths education has a profound impact on students’ self-confidence and motivation. As they receive targeted support and witness their progress, their self-belief grows, leading to increased confidence in their mathematical abilities. This boost in self-confidence fuels their motivation to continue learning and striving for excellence. With enhanced self-esteem and a positive attitude, ADHD students become more resilient and willing to tackle mathematical challenges head-on.

Teaching of Essential Skills for ‘Real-World’ Living

Maths isn’t just important for academic success, but also for ‘real-world’ living. It equips students with vital skills that have practical applications in their daily lives, such as problem-solving, logical reasoning, critical thinking, and numerical literacy. By nurturing these skills, ADHD students are better prepared to navigate real-world situations in their personal and professional lives.

Top Maths-Mastering Apps For Children With ADHD

Research has shown that drill-and-skill computerised exercises can be massively beneficial for children with ADHD, in helping them navigate the challenges that maths can present.

In fact, this is so well-attested that the Google and Apple app stores have become flooded with ‘revolutionary’ apps aimed at ADHD and maths. But how can you tell which ones really work, and which are less effective?

Well, it’s important to say that what works for one child, may not work so well for another – learning styles, personality and cultural considerations play a big role. With that said, here are a few apps that we’ve seen demonstrate great success in helping children with ADHD tackle maths.

  • Sushi Monster; iOS, free. – This fun, friendly and free app gets kids used to basic arithmetic first, before moving on to more challenging tasks. Numbers appear on a plate of sushi, and learners must feed the correct plate to a monster.
  • Zoom; iOS, approx. £2.50. – This one is designed specifically for decimals and place value. Abstract numbers are conveyed via creatures such as dinosaurs, amoebas, and a zoo full of animals; players must move numbers and use decimals in order to reach the solution.
  • Maths Ninja; iOS, Android, free. – Maths Ninja follows a narrative arc, where learners must power up their character to defeat villains. Correct answers result in greater strength; with non-scary bad guys and fun design, this app is suitable even for younger children.
  • Rooster Money; Android, free. – Day-to-day financial management might be the most useful skill children will acquire through their maths journey. Rooster Money gives children a practice bank account, and they can add cash or subtract purchases depending on their actions.

Seeking Support With ADHD and Maths? We’re Here To Help

Addressing ADHD in maths education is vital for the success and wellbeing of students with ADHD. By understanding the challenges they face, implementing effective strategies, and providing tailored support, we can help them overcome difficulties and thrive in mathematics.

From creating an ADHD-friendly environment, to utilising teaching techniques and accommodations, parents, teachers and carers can enhance their performance, self-confidence, and essential skills.

At The ADHD Centre, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive assessments and personalised treatment plans. Book an assessment today and embark on a journey towards smooth symptom management, supported by our specialist care.


How does ADHD affect mathematical reasoning and problem-solving skills?

ADHD can hinder mathematical reasoning and problem-solving skills due to challenges with sustained attention, working memory, and executive functions. These difficulties can impact the ability to focus, follow multi-step procedures, and apply critical thinking strategies during mathematical tasks.

Are there any specific teaching methods that work well for ADHD students in maths?

Teaching methods that incorporate multisensory approaches, hands-on activities, visual aids, and real-life examples tend to be effective for ADHD students in maths. Utilising technology, mnemonic devices, and breaking down tasks into manageable steps can also enhance understanding and engagement.

What accommodations can be provided to support ADHD students in maths?

Accommodations such as extended time for tests and assignments, preferential seating, use of assistive technology, and providing organisational tools can support ADHD students in maths. Visual cues, clear instructions, and additional support for note-taking and organisation are also beneficial.

How can teachers differentiate maths instruction for students with ADHD?

Teachers can differentiate maths instruction for students with ADHD by breaking down complex concepts, offering additional practice opportunities, providing visual aids, using structured routines, incorporating movement breaks, and offering personalised support and feedback to meet individual needs.

What strategies can parents implement to help their ADHD child excel in maths?

Parents can create a structured and organised environment, establish consistent routines, provide regular breaks during homework, use visual reminders and checklists, encourage regular exercise, collaborate with teachers, and seek professional support to help their ADHD child excel in maths.

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We have been diagnosing and treating people with ADHD since 2009.

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